Adaptive Ski Clinic at Badger Pass

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On January 5-6, 2006, Glen Smith kindly came down from Heavenly Valley to teach some of the ski and snowboard instructors about "adaptive" ski instruction. Essentially, this means teaching us how to adapt our teaching and teaching skiers how to adapt their skiing to various disabilites they might have. It's a great approach in that it starts from the assumption that no disability is assumed, but the skier is evaluated and teaching and skiing style is adapted to that person's needs as required.

It was a pretty whirlwind course, especially for those of us who are brand new instructors and just getting our initial PSIA indoctrination, but we had two super fun days as Glen introduced us to teaching skiers with Down's Syndrome, autistic skiers, blind skiers, skiers who have various physical weaknesses be it total paralysis in their legs or some weakness caused by cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or any number of other causes. Though we didn't cover it specifically, I couldn't help but think about how these techniques could be applied to my sister, who has myasthenia gravis.

I actually had not had a chance to go skiing this year except for a quick skate ski and two short Badger Pass runs after a lesson the other day, so it was good to get out and just ski a bit too and have some fun. The highlight on the goofing off scale was no doubt putting Glen in the blind skier vest and me in the blind skier instructor vest and bombing down under the lift with me yelling "LEFT GLEN!" "TO MY VOICE! TO MY VOICE!" "RIGHT GLEN!" Later in the lodge somebody came up and told us his kids were watching from the lift and saying "I think that guy can see." We're going to have to do that just for kicks from time to time.

Some of the techniques and tools will take some more practice, but it left all of us feeling a lot more comfortable about teaching adapative skiers and hoping that we see more of them at Badger Pass. Badger is a tiny ski area that is quickly boring for advanced skiers, but fun for beginners and families who want to let younger children ski on their own. Many elderly people tell me they like it as well, given the gentle terrain and lack of aggro skiers whizzing by. It strikes me that those same qualities would make it a good place for adaptive skiers as well.

Finally, Glen is a great teacher. Though I grew up in a ski-instructor family (both my mom and dad, my mom being full cert in both alpine and XC) and have taught for years at the more advanced levels, teaching beginners and large classes is a new thing for me. My entire formal teacher training for beginner classes consists of two days in the rain with Chuck Carter, the ski school director and a great teacher himself, so it was also really helpful just to see another person's approach to teaching skiing. At least for me, the newest teacher of the crew, I learned as much about teaching "normies" as Glen calls them as I did about teaching adaptive skiers. Now I just have to figure out how to quit my day job!

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